President Trump Signs Executive Order on Veteran Suicide CSPAN March 6, 2019 2:27am-2:59am EST
>> president trump signed an executive order establishing a task force to address veteran suicide. robert wilkey was in attendance and thanked the president to prevent the loss of an average of 20 veterans a day who take their own lives. from the roosevelt room at the white house. this is 25 minutes. president trump: thank you very
much. very much appreciate it. i'll be heading to alabama on friday. i think some of you will be joining me. but we'll be going down friday. and we'll let you know times and when we're leaving and how long we'll be there. it's been a tragic situation, but a lot of good work is being done. and we've been in constant touch with the governor and also the governor of georgia, and so we'll be going to the area. we'll be in alabama and the general area. we'll see governor ivy. so that will be on friday. thank you very much. and we're here today to confront a solemn crisis that requires urgent national action in a few moments i will sign an executive order addressing one of our nation's most heartbreaking tragedies, veteran suicide. our mission is to mobilize every level of american society to
save the lives of our great veterans and support our heroes in need. we've worked very hard on choice for the veterans and so many other programs. and have done a really great job in so many ways. veteran suicide is something that's been an incredible thing to watch, hard to believe. it's tragic. today, we could help end this crisis. i'd like to thank secretary wilky for being here today with us. he's done a fantastic job as secretary. he's making tremendous progress at the v.a.. we're also profoundly grateful to be joined by many of our nation's leading veterans, service organizations, the best and all of the state and local veteran leaders. and i want to thank everybody for being here. thank you all very much.
i know how hard you've been working on this. veteran suicide is a tragedy of staggering proportions, believe. an average of 20 veterans and service members take their lives every single day. who would believe that's possible? there are more than 6000 veteran suicides per year. the suicide rate among veterans is 1.5 times greater than that .or nonveteran adults in the suicide rate for post-9/11 soldiers has increased significantly over the last 10 year period. you have an entire nation of more than 300 million people behind you. you will never be forgotten. we are with you all the way. i think you know that. supporting veterans is a very important thing to me and it has been very important from my
campaign, from day one. supporting veterans in distress is a critical priority for our entire administration. everybody in the administration. last year i signed the most -- the largest funding bill for the v.a. in its history. i also signed an executive order directing the department of defense veteran affairs and homeland security to ensure veterans have seamless access to mental health care and suicide prevention resources. these efforts focused on veterans the first year after they separate from military service. when they are at the heightened risk area. the white house v.a. hotline has fielded more than 200,000 calls and successfully resolved 93% of the concerns our veterans
brought to them. it has been very very effective. we secured $206 million for v.a. .uicide prevention programming every v.a. medical center offers same-day emergency mental health care. steps, butrucial most veterans who died by suicide have not been in the care of the v.a.. many of them don't know about the programs we have or the programs we have instituted. suicidehose lost to have not received care from the v.a. in the previous two years. they are just not aware of those great strides. they are just not aware. it's just not something that is on their mind. this great problem can only be solved if our entire country works together to build immunities that truly serve, support, and protect veterans
from the first moment they return to civilian life. they leave a military life and go to civilian life, and it is different. we must keep our promises to those who keep us free. through today's action i am launching the prevent initiative . the president's roadmap to empower veterans and end the national tragedy of suicide. this order creates a new cabinet level task force cochaired by secretary wilkie. the task force will create a comprehensive national public health roadmap that brings together federal and local government, along with private sector partners to improve the quality of life for veterans and turn the tide on this crisis. we are being helped by her strong economy. -- our strong economy. it is a lot easier for people to get jobs, including veterans.
a lot of companies are giving priority and dark request -- priority to veterans. the task force will be tasked with developing a research strategy so we can identify, intervene, and help veterans during a time of need. research andin scientific advances, we can better understand the trauma and how to restore their faith and their health. under this order, my administration will also work with congress to pass legislation providing resources and assistance in the form of grants to communities so that they can empower veterans with critical information, services, and networks of total support. we are going to take care of our veterans. we are working so hard on this.
we are making so much progress. we are going to take care of them like never before. veterans are america's greatest national treasure. a lot of people understand that. some people don't. our greatest national treasure. they kept us safe and we are going to keep them safe. they courageously fulfill their duties to our nation. now we must fulfill our duties to them. here with us today is frank. his son ryan followed in his footsteps to become a navy seal. terrific young man. tragically, ryan is no longer with us. frank, i would love to have you say a few words, please. >> thank you, mr. president.
thank you to our warriors and veterans present today along with the veterans service organizations, our partners who are working hard every day to make a difference for veterans who are in need. to the government leaders here today and the survivors of suicide who live every day with pain from the loss of a loved one. ryan was a decorated navy seal who suddenly went over the edge. in the two years we tried to rescue him, he was prescribed over 40 different drugs. his treatment was all psychiatric. all along, ryan kept saying something was wrong with his head. nobody was listening. months before he took his life, he expressed a wish to donate his life for research. ryan was concerned about his teammates and the struggles they were experiencing following training for combat and combat operations overseas. many are burdened with invisible wounds. as a consequence of going into
harm's way in service of this nation. after ryan's death, we learned he suffered from an undiagnosed severe level microscopic brain injury related to military blast exposure from firing a weapons system, rockets, using explosive breezing -- breaching charges, and being exposed to ied's. we are challenged by the fact that this pattern of brain injury cannot be seen in a living person, not unlike the contact sport players trying to understand the effects of microscopic cte. this executive order is defining a national strategy that needs to resemble a project. we need science to eliminate our path forward. it is not because we lack the intellectual capability or capacity. in many cases it is because of culture. we need all the relevant players to step onto the same field of
play at the same time, completely focused on stopping this problem. we need collaboration, integration of data, and unity of effort across dod, the v.a., ths, academia, and the private sector. we need a holistic approach with the heightened sense of urgency to push scientific research. as we develop knowledge, as we experienced with the manhattan project and space exploration, we will inform on other disease processes and therapies that will go beyond the veteran community. i received calls almost weekly from special operators past and present seeking help. they want to know what is happening to them. they are experiencing unexplained changes. they want to know if the pain will get better. if they will return to being the person they once were. i have to commend my own seal community for embracing this challenge. ryan got left behind.
they are working hard now to get it right, collecting exposure data to advance the research, increasing baseline health surveillance and changing tactics to reduce exposures, especially in the combat training environment. we also need to recognize invisible wounds suffered on the battlefield. the monetary cost of a purple heart award is low. a few dollars for the metal itself. but the emotional impact is very high to those suffering daily with these obscure injuries. to be recognized for their sacrifice. mr. president, following this event i'm going to arlington national cemetery to tell ryan he is still making a difference. that he is still helping his boys. we cannot leave our men and women behind. to our veterans and their families, do not lose hope. we will find a better way.
remember, we made a promise to take care of those who served us. failure is not an option. mr. president, thank you. [applause] pres. trump: thank you very much. also here today with us is thomas winkle, a marine corps veteran. he is the director of the arizona coalition for military families, and the creator of a nationally recognized community collaboration model called be connected. thomas, could you please say a few words? >> thank you, mr. president. i greatly appreciate being able to be here today. frank, i appreciate your words. i am sorry about your son. he is in our hearts. you are in our hearts.
your family. semper fi, brother. prevents initiative is what this country needs. it is exactly what the tens of thousands of individuals across the country have been hoping for. for the past 10 years i have been working with states, every single state across the country, local teams, state teams, federal teams, and when you boil everything down, all their concerns, all their hopes, all their frustrations, when it comes down to is that there needs to be a sense of coordination and collaboration. unlike what we have today and unlike what we have seen before. we are not talking about regular old coordination and collaboration, or partnership that is partnership in name only. we need partnership that is true, consistent, that allows the organization to meet its own metrics and its altruistic
metrics. it is incredibly important and it is valuable. we have examples of this partnership. little ones across the country. one from arizona happens to be in 2010, the arizona national guard had its highest rate of suicide ever. very difficult situation. partners got together. the leadership of the collective impact initiative. we had the same goal in mind. how do we reduce this number or get rid of it completely? over 36 months, we dropped the rate from the highest ever to zero. it can be done. we have the ability to prevent suicide. to make lives more empowered. to make lives have more meaning. to drive folks forward to feel the success that happens when they get a great job, when they get a great spouse or they have kids. the reality is that we have all
known someone who has died by suicide. it is hard. it is painful. we have the ability to stop it. the way we were able to do this is that we worked with a no wrong door and no wrong person approach. that means every single organization was engaged. every single organization was involved. had a stake in veterans and their thriving. lawyersve mechanics and and doctors and teachers and first responders, and we have hotel clerks. one of my favorite stories is a hotel clerk that noticed a person that was checking in happened to be a veteran, that they were struggling in a variety of different ways. hotel clerk did not know what to do. he called the be connected line.
they coached him through. the clerks goes up to his room, knocks on the door, and says, i just wanted to check with you. you seemed like you might be distressed and i wanted to see if there was anything i could do. the individual said, i'm so glad you came up. i'm so glad you talked with me. i was sitting here contemplating how it was going to die. not if. you may have just saved my life. we hear these stories consistently. it takes the entire community to be able to do this. our belief is that everyone knows what to do when an individual is in trouble, they will act. mr. president, we greatly support this act, or this initiative. we deeply appreciate everything you have put into this. it is going to make a huge difference.
i can speak on behalf of arizona and the other states i have spoken with. we stand ready. thank you. [applause] pres. trump: i heard one thing beyond all else when you spoke, and that was, from the highest rate ever 20. o. ever to zer we are going to have to find out what you are doing. highest rate ever to zero. that is what we are up here for. there has to be something we can do. 20 a day? hard to believe. thank you very much. i would like to ask a man who has done an incredible job, secretary wilkie, to say a few words. i am so happy he is our secretary. if you look over the last fairly
long time now he has been secretary, we have had so many good stories about what is happening generally at the v.a. we are extremely proud of choice. it has been decades they have been trying to get choice were a veteran can see a doctor, the lines are long, they don't have weeks, nine days, three 10 weeks, never get to see a doctor. people go online and they are not feeling well and they end up being terminal by the time we see a doctor. we have great doctors. we have great doctors in the v.a. when you see them, they are as good as anybody in the world. put itan who is really all together is secretary wilkie. sec., please say a few words. thank you, mr. president.
. have said this to you before apart from the honor of serving in your administration, i am what passes for an amateur historian and there has never been a campaign or administration where the candidate and the president put veterans centerpiece of his campaign and his administration until you did that. i speak for all of us who have worn the uniform in whatever capacity we have served. we cannot thank you enough for that. , three department of veteran affairs heroes put their lives on the line to keep a fellow veteran from taking his own life. in the west palm beach v.a. medical center.
they risked their lives to save the life of a veteran. two of our v.a. heroes were wounded. one severely. that veteran lived. 2017, v.a. employees, doctors, nurses, technicians, 243cemen, have saved veterans just like the one hour in palm beach. since 2017, 19 veterans have not been saved. that is what today's ceremony is about. it is about pulling together the resources of the federal government. our states and localities, our charities, our nongovernmental organizations, and coming together with a roadmap and a resource -- and the resources to make sure we no longer have those 19. i have said many times that the
mission of the department of veterans affairs is to remind fellow citizens why they sleep soundly at night. they sleep soundly at night because of the sacrifices of a select number of their fellow americans. who have taken the affirmative step to serve in uniform. those, as the president said, those 20 every day that take their own lives, 14 of them outside of our v.a. system, most of them from my father's generation. his comrades from southeast asia. we deserve for them the last full measure of our devotion. this begins the closing of that circle. mr. president, i think you and your team for everything they have done on behalf of america's warriors. [applause]
the witchhunt continues. the fact is -- i guess we got 81 letters. there was no collusion. there was no anything. they want to do that instead of getting legislation passed. 81 people organizations got letters. it is a disgrace to our country. i'm not surprised. they have started to campaign. but their campaign has been going on the past two and a half years, so it is a shame. and the people understand it. they just say, presidential harassment. but that's ok. no administration has accomplished -- probably you could say this with absolute surety in the first two years anywhere near what we have accomplished, whether it is the tax cuts, whether it is
regulation cuts, whether it is the veterans administration, what we have done with choice and so many other things nobody thought would be possible to get past. no administration has done it in the first two years what the trump in ministry should has done. what the democrats want to do, they could not stand losing in 2016. i see it all the time. i saw a certain person get up yesterday, the anger, they just have not gotten used to the fact that we won a lot of states that have not been won by republicans in a long time. what they are saying as the campaign begins. instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing health care, instead of doing so many things
they should be doing, they want to play games. president obama, from what they tell me, was under a similar kind of a thing. they did not give one letter.
requests were made. , because i would rather see them do legislation. things we agree on, like infrastructure. but they want to focus on nonsense. by thinkingto end all the people in this room today -- thanking all the people in this room today. the job you have done for the v.a. is incredible. keep up the good work. thank you very much.
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